by Erin and Steve on 03/26/19
So we for some reason get a lot of questions about our onions, specifically storage onions, and I don't really know why other than people just don't understand how they grow and how many different varieties of onions exist in order to serve a myriad of purposes.
I had a friend visit me once when I was living and farming in Vermont. Steve and I took her on a tour of the vegetable fields at the farm where we were working. She was amazed at a vegetable sitting seemingly on top of the soil with grassy-like 'hair' coming out the top. "What are those Erin?" she asked (well, honestly she called me by the ridiculous nickname she had for me at the time). "Those are onions," I said. "If you look closely at them you'll see."
This part of this particular visit has always stuck out in my memory because if you know what a fresh onion looks like it looks exactly like that on top of the soil right before it is ready to be harvested.
So, putting this all into the context of our farm and the season that is already underway...onions were the first things to be seeded. All 25,000 seeds of onions are broadcasted into 1020 greenhouse trays (1000 seeds per tray) at the end of February. When they germinate they look like green hairs or grass. We grow 9 different varieties of onions. We seed specific varieties to be harvested 'fresh' like Sierra Blancas, Ailsa Craigs, and Walla Wallas to name a few. The foliage of the fresh onion is still green and looks like scallion tops when they are harvested fresh. Generally these fresh onions are milder and sweeter in flavor than storage onions. They also cannot store as long as specific storage varieties. We grow Scout, Red Bull, and Cortland onions as storage onions (and there are a few specialty ones like Cipollini in the middle). Cortlands generally last us in storage all the way threw to the end of the Winter Share.
Onions are a crop we grow with a lot of pride because they are difficult to grow. Not only do they have pests and vegetable diseases to fend off (as do all vegetables), they have almost no canopy to shade out weeds so it is a pain to keep them weed free. We use tine weeders early on and finger weeders later on in their growth cycle to mechanically cultivate them. This means the beds of onions cannot have any drip lines in them (the typical way we irrigate) because they would get caught up in the tine weeder. So the onions even have their own irrigation gun the farm purchased to make them happy in dry seasons. A picture of this can be found on our Instagram page. Just click the icon in the upper corner of this page that looks like a polaroid camera. The picture from June 25th, 2018 shows our onions from last year grown right there on the corner of Shimerville and Roll roads (YES, if you drove through that intersection at all last year between early May and early August you drove right by all the beds of onions). Go ahead and follow us on Instagram if you want, or if you are not able to just visit our Instagram page throughout the season to see the progress of the farm and the onions.
There is way more info I've got for you on onions, including how we cure certain varieties for storage, but we'll leave it there for now and I'll explain more about our onions...just one of the almost 60 different crops we grow...later.